Tag Archives: food

Tarte Tatin

I’m not sure if I’m writing this to share my tarte tatin or to show off that I have an apple tree in my garden… I think probably the latter. I’ve recently moved house and my new place has a big old apple tree which is fuiting apples of some unknown eating variety. This summers wet weather (classic British summertime) has been pretty disastrous for fruit harvests with many crops coming late in the season and often with big blemishes all over the skin. Fortunately for me, this means that my tree is covered in delicious apples waiting to be eaten. The only problem is that the tree is pretty big, I’m not 20 feet tall (shock horror) and I don’t have a ladder… Picture the scene: It’s a quiet Saturday morning and my housemate is awoken by me violently shaking said tree and attempting to bash apples off it with a big stick in one hand and my camera in the other, all the while cursing my lack of success. It was pretty ridiculous but twenty minutes later I was rewarded with a bowlful of apples and freezing cold hands. Sunday was shaping up nicely.

Before I started make this I did a bit of reading and it seems Tarte Tatin can be made with either shortcrust or puff pastry. I plumped for shortcrust (no real reason why – I think puff would work just as well if not better) and it being the weekend, made my own which was really easy. The thing with pastry though, and I’m about to expose myself as a massive fake, is that shop bought pastry is pretty much the same price and doesn’t taste any different. There are of course exceptions – my dad makes the most incredible pear tart with almond pastry – but for simple shortcrust I think I’d rather save myself the mess and more importantly the knowledge of just how much butter I’m consuming by buying it pre-made from the supermarket. Roll on the easy life – pastry pun intended.

My next confession (because Sunday is all about confession right?) is that when I made the caramel I made a rather large mistake… In my haste, when I glanced at the recipe I misread it and didn’t add the small amount of butter that I was meant to, but instead jumped in with the rather large amount that was destined for the pastry… Mmmmm buttery caramel! After I realised what I’d done I was pretty worried that it would taste awful but it was great. Fat, sugar, and a pinch of salt – everything bad for you combined it was going to always taste amazing. That said, I suggest a slightly reduced amount of butter below, mostly to save your arteries clogging up instantly…

I’ve never been more pleased with my garden. Fruit puddings have never been more unhealthy, nor more delicious. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

7 medium apples (something sharp but flavoursome – like the ones on my tree)
200g white sugar
80g butter

220g plain flour
2 heaped table spoons of caster sugar
120g cold butter
1 large egg, beaten

Method

1. Peel, halve and core the apples and put in the fridge, uncovered for a few hours.

2. Put the sugar into a 20cm heavy-based ovenproof frying pan (which will fit all of your apples arranged  face down in it) along with a small amount of water and stir until combined. Once you’ve got a thick gloopy liquid, cook this over a high heat until dark golden. Don’t stir the mixture as it heats up, but instead tilt the pan from side to side to mix it. You’ll need to keep an eye on this to make sure it doesn’t burn and you may need to turn the heat down.

3. Once you’re happy with the colour, take it off the heat, and stir in 80g of butter (NOT 120g as I went for!), and a generous few pinches of salt. Stir until it’s thoroughly mixed and then put the apples into the pan, round side down making sure that there aren’t any gaps if possible. Put it back on the hob and cook for a further 10 minutes, flipping the apples twice so that they are totally coated in the caramel with the round side facing down. Once cooked let the mixture cool down in the pan.

4. Make the pastry. Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the sugar, salt, and small chunks of the butter – grating it saves lots of time – and rub the mixture together with your finger tips until it resembles breadcrumbs. Beat the egg and add it to the mix, and keep mixing until you get a smooth non-sticky ball of dough, slowly adding tiny amounts of cold water as necessary.

5. Refrigerate the pastry in clingfilm for 20 minutes whilst preparing to roll it out, and then roll to half a centimetre thick. Cut a circle the same size as your pan (a tiny bit bigger is best), and then place this on top of the apples and caramel in the pan, pushing it around the edges of the pan.

6. Put the entire pan in a oven preheated to 200 C and cook for 30 minutes or so until the pastry is golden. Take it out, give it a few minutes to cool, and then very carefully turn the tart out onto a plate larger than the pan. Serve with ice cream for the most unhealthy way to get one of your 5 a day ever.

(informed by the Guardian’s word of mouth blog)

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Cooking

Lamb Meatballs, Walnuts, Burnt Aubergine

You should know dear reader, that recently I’ve not had as had as much time as I would have liked in the kitchen. This should of course be met with exorbitant levels of sympathy. I can imagine the tears and hysteria now as you cry “poor fodderblogger – he must be so overworked” as you desperately search for my employers details to reprimand them for working me so hard. Not happening? Oh ok – fine, it’s probably for the best… Anyway. Not having a lot of time, I’ve found myself in a bit of food rut. I’ve been finding myself starving hungry and with little time to cook so I’ve been throwing things together pretty quickly. This has meant I’ve been relying upon my tried (or should that be tired?) and tested meals, the quick and easy staples upon which I can rely for a solid meal, but without the va-va-voom.

Time wasn’t about to present itself to me, so I was going to have to evolve like a Darwinian finch, and that’s exactly what this recipe is all about.  It’s a game changer. You can throw it together easily straight after work, and it doesn’t involve loads of waiting for things to cook. It’s one of those rare meals that when one part is done, it’s time to do the next and you won’t have to juggle five things at once. Minimal stress is required, it’s comforting like a big hug from a buxom madam, and most importantly it’s delicious. Put simply, it’s the perfect mid-week meal.

Now I’m not going to go all Jamie Oliver on you and claim you can make this in 15 minutes flat without setting the house on fire or losing a limb, but if you’re cooking tonight you could do much worse than this as a quick and easy meal. The zingy meatballs are guaranteed to hit the spot, and the sweet, smoky aubergine accompaniment, along with the rich crunch of the toasted walnuts means this dish doesn’t compromise on flavour and won’t tie you to the oven all evening.

Ingredients

500g lamb mince

Zest of half a large lemon

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

10 large mint leaves (small handful), finely shredded

100ml vegetable stock

 

2 good sized aubergines

Juice of half to two-thirds of a lemon (adjusted to taste)

2 Tablespoons of tahini

2 Tablespoon of pomegranate molasses.

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Loaded teaspoon of cumin seeds

Handful of walnuts, toasted

Seasoning

Method

1. Combine the lamb mince, lemon zest, garlic and mint leaves in a big bowl, mix thoroughly and season generously. Once well mixed, roll the mixture into small, ping-pong sized balls in your palms (it should make about 16) and brown these in a little oil in a pan.

2. Once nicely browned all over, place the meatballs in a small over proof dish with a lid, and add around the vegetable stock. Ideally most of the meatballs will be sat in the stock but don’t worry too much. Put the meatballs in an oven preheated to 190°C with the lid on and cook for 25 minutes.

3. While these are cooking, make the burnt aubergine. Take the aubergine and place it directly on a moderate flame. Keep turning it regularly until the flesh feels soft and the skin is all blackened. This should take 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them as you’re doing this – you don’t want them to catch alight although it would certainly would add some excitement to meal time, helping you break out of that cooking rut…

4. Once done, chop lengthways through the aubergine and once it’s cooled a little, scoop the flesh out and put it in a sieve to drain for 15 minutes. Add a little salt as this helps draw out the liquid.

5. Meanwhile in a bowl, combine the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, tahini, and garlic and toasted cumin seeds. Once the aubergine has had it’s time, add it in and mix thoroughly. Taste and season as required.

Serve the meatballs and aubergine with couscous and scatter toasted walnut pieces over the top. Garnish with chopped herbs – I used a tiny bit of left over coriander but parsley would work too – or with pomegranate seeds for an opulent finish.

2 Comments

Filed under Cooking

San Sebastian Pintxos Crawl – Best of the Best

If you’ve not been to San Sebastian, Spain then you need to go and book your ticket right now. Stop reading this immediately and sort out your flights. Done? Good.

So why are you going? Well San Sebastian is the closest thing that Europe has to Rio. Long, golden, sandy beaches which are watched from up high by a huge statue of Christ? Check. Charming old streets and churches? Check. Mountainous backdrop? Check. It’s got the works, but most importantly, it has some of the world’s best food. The city boasts 3 restaurants that each hold 3 michelin stars. Not half bad for a place with a population of 186,000…

If the prospect of a 100 Euro meal isn’t getting you excited, the great news is that to eat well in San Sebastian you won’t need to re-mortgage your house and take granny out of the care home. A passion for quality food permeates through every aspect of the city and incredible food is available in every bar in town in the form of Pintxos. Pintxos (Peen-chos), literally meaning ‘spiked’, are Basque bar snacks and take it from me, they put Gary Lineker and his potato snacks to shame. Traditionally these consist of small slices of bread loaded up with delicious ingredients secured in place with a toothpick. Arranged along the bar, everywhere in town boastfully displays their offerings – customers need only ask for a plate and get tucked in. It’s the ultimate in eating with your eyes – this vast array of delectable morsels spread out before you – and for a food pervert like me I was in ecstasy.

As good as these are, many of the best pintxos have evolved and strayed away from the normal on-the-bar display. In a number of places, dotted around the bar you will find small menus featuring hot pintxos which are, are without a doubt, some of the world’s best small plates of food.

I can’t express the excitement and anticipation of bar hopping around town, selecting the best pintxos in the bar to accompany a big oaky Rioja, and then moving on to the next place to raid their speciality dish. I was running around town like a madman, drunk on food and red wine and scouting out the very best food that San Sebastian could offer. Below are some of the very best pintxos which you simply must eat when you are there. My photos fail to do the food justice, but hopefully give you a taster of just how fantastic eating with your eyes in San Sebastian can be.

If you’re only in town for one night and are overwhelmed by the choice on offer, I can safely point you in the direction of La Cuchara de San Telmo, and Borda Berri. Both do sublime hot pintxos – you simply can’t go wrong!

Veal Cheeks – The speciality dish and star of the show had to be the veal cheek slow cooked in Rioja served with hummus. The tiniest touch with a fork and the meat fell apart into wonderfully rich flakes with not a bit of fat in sight. Soft, delicious and packed with flavour, we couldn’t help ourselves and came back to eat this 3 nights running…

Huge scallops wrapped in iberico bacon. Sweet, soft, delicate scallops were cooked on a high heat and served with iberico bacon. Divine.

Slow roasted Suckling Pig, its crispy skin flecked with salt crystals, the meat tender and falling apart on the fork. This is what pulled pork dreams of.

One of the most memorable dishes from Borda Berri was the Squid Paella. Fresh squid cooked until tender and mixed into paella rice loaded with smoked paprika to give it a big smokey flavour hit. There was a little sweetness in there too which balanced out the taste of the sea perfectly; this was a brilliant dish.

Aratjo serves just 3 dishes which the locals devour en masse: Muscles, calamari, and potatoes. If I’m honest the potatoes could do with some work but the muscles are to die for. Served with a very smooth, slightly spicy, garlicy tomato sauce this was a bold flavour pairing that went down a storm. The calamari, floured and fried, was crisp and soft and all the tastier for not having to battle with the taste of batter.

At La Cepa, we devoured Black pudding with peppery olive oil and silky piquillo peppers. The black pudding was fried, crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, and  dressed in a peppery olive oil and silky piquillo peppers. Again, big bold flavours partnered to perfection.

Bread with anchovies, salsa, and peppers. They don’t mess around with anchovies in Spain. Plump anchovies are bursting with flavour, a far cry from the limp, salty corpses we find on pizzas in the UK. This simple pintxo of fresh bread, a soft layer of piquillo pepper, fresh anchovy fillets topped with a salsa of tomato and yellow pepper and a hint of red wine vinegar was perfectly balanced. This is some sophisticated bar snack.

And finally, this post would be incomplete without Iberico…

Iberico ham is ubiquitous in Spain for reasons that are clear at the first mouthful. The strong umami hit of that rich, all enveloping cured meat is wonderful. Every bar in town serves Iberico ham pintxos – rest assured it’s always going to deliver.

What are you waiting for!? San Sebastian and it’s Pintxos await!

Leave a comment

Filed under Eating

My Big Fat Greek Dinner

I only know two Greek people and neither of them are big or fat which is hugely disappointing. This could soon change though; one of them (my friend’s girlfriend) is a relentless feeder and is determined to fatten everyone up she knows with copious amounts of delicious food swimming in olive oil. I’m totally cool with her feeding habits because Greek food is delicious. If I were Greek I would certainly be big and fat because I’d never stop eating.

Recently I found myself green with envy as the feeder invited her boyfriend to Greece to visit her family. Cue mass excitement amongst her many hundreds of aunts – immediately every single one of them was on a mission to feed her boyfriend their moussaka and all claimed to make the best one. Win an Olympic gold medal? Not fussed. Win the lottery? Meh. Be judged to be the Moussaka Queen? “YES YES YES THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN PUT ON THIS PLANET TO DO!” The quest for the ultimate moussaka is the holy grail to the feeder’s aunts and what a noble cause it is. What could possibly beat this wonderful dish served with a classic Greek salad? Soft rich lamb, subtle herbs and spices, a big tomato hit, aubergine which melts in the mouth all hiding under a soft creamy zingy coating.  Served with the salty freshness of a greek salad, frankly nothing can beat it. Sadly for the aunties slaving away in hot Athenian kitchens trying to perfect their recipe and win our admiration the recipe for the worlds best moussaka is no secret; in fact it’s right here….

My Big Fat Greek Moussaka

serves 4 big fat Greeks.

συστατικά (Ingredients)

600g minced lamb

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

3 chopped anchovies finely chopped

2 tins of peeled plum tomatoes

A big squeeze of tomato purée

2 medium sized aubergines sliced into 1/2 cm slices.

100ml red wine

Small handful of fresh mint finely chopped

1 generous tsp of dried oregano

1 tsp ground cinnamon

seasoning

350ml Greek/natural yogurt

1 egg, beaten

1/2 a nutmeg

zest of 1/2 a lemon

μέθοδος (Method)

1. Brown off the mince in a big pan and once done transfer to a big bowl.

2. Soften the onion and the garlic in the pan for a few minutes before the chopped anchovies adding the tomatoes and lamb. Crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon to break them up before adding the tomato purée. Reduce the liquid on a high heat.

3. Put the grill on high and after brushing the aubergine slices with olive oil grill them for a few minutes on each side until they change colour. It will probably be necessary to do this in batches. If you have the time and inclination you can cover them in salt to draw any excess water out before you cook them, and then wipe the salt and water off with kitchen paper – 3o minutes or so will be sufficient but it’s not essential.

4. Once the meat mixture is thickening up nicely, season generously and then add a good glug of wine, the fresh mint, oregano, cinnamon and continue reducing down. The cinnamon adds a lovely rich sweetness and enhances the lamb no end so don’t miss this out. While this continues reducing down, prepare the topping.

5. Mix the yoghurt, egg, lemon zest and nutmeg thoroughly before adding a good twist of black pepper. Once the sauce is thick and delicious, put the oven on to 190 and start assembling the moussaka.

6. In a large baking dish build up the moussaka by putting in alternating layers of lamb and aubergine, ensuring that you finish with a layer of aubergine. Spread the yoghurt mixture evenly over the top and bake uncovered in the oven for around 30 minutes until golden brown. Whilst your waiting throw together a simple but delicious Greek salad and you’ll be all set.

Classic Greek Salad

200g feta

3 large ripe tomatoes

1 cucumber

1 small/medium red onion

A handful of olives (mixed or black)

Extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp of dried oregano

Black pepper

Quarter the tomatoes, and then cut each quarter into 4/5 bite sized chunks. Cut the cucumber into similar sized chunks and half the red onion before slicing it into thin ribbons. Combine all of these into a bowl, scatter on the olives, and break up the feta with your thumbs into irregular chunks before throwing this in too. It will have loads more character and the flavours will seem more balanced if you don’t chop the feta up evenly so get your hands in there. Dress the salad with a little extra virgin olive oil, mix gently, and then sprinkle on the oregano and add some freshly milled black pepper. Leave for 10 minutes to let the flavours combine.

Serve the moussaka with the salad and bread to mop up any juices. Serve big fat portions and then immediately take a bow and sit back to enjoy the show as Zeus rains down thunderbolts in recognition of the worlds best moussaka. The aunts are going to hate you, but your stomach certainly won’t.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking

Citrusy Olive Oil Almond Cake

Confession time. Baking scares me. If the ingredients aren’t measured perfectly, or if the cake doesn’t go in the oven at just the right temperature for the exact period of time and not a second longer, there is a fair chance baking will end in disaster. It just feels so much more scientific than cooking pasta or a piece of meat. Putting on that apron and bakers hat is like donning a lab coat and safety goggles, and I’ve got some serious scars from experiments gone wrong. To be good at baking, you need pipette and thermometers, measuring beakers and scales accurate to the nearest milligram, not to mention a Bunsen burner or two. At least this was what I thought before I made this cake and so it was with some trepidation that I decided to bake my housemate a birthday cake.

Because I don’t bake often, when I do commit to a bit of kitchen chemistry I don’t normally want to make a standard run-of-the-mill cake. I want to make something that sounds fancy so that when it all goes wrong I’ve got a convenient excuse. I want to push the incredibly low limits of my GCSE science, and this was when I read about a cake with olive oil. What was this madness!? This was bound to go wrong so with my safety goggles (glasses but whatever) perched at the end of my nose I set to work and incredibly my experiment was a success. Countless gases were released, colour changes took place, and it even changed from a liquid to a solid. Bona fide science.

The cake was wonderfully moist with a satisfying almondy flavour and an intriguing olive oil/citrus tang lingering in the background. The brown butter icing was rich, creamy and delicious – the perfect accompaniment to the toasted almonds which sat proudly on top. It’s seriously delicious, and the best thing is that it’s  incredibly easy so you won’t need to wait for a special occasion to make it. Time to crack out your lab coat and get baking.

Citrusy Olive Oil Almond Cake
(adapted from olive oil almond cake by Sassy Radish)

Serves 8

Cake Ingredients:

  • 150g plain flour
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 170g granulated sugar
  • 130ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 /2 tsp almond essence
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 150ml orange juice + a small squeeze of lemon juice

For the glaze:

  • Handful of almond flakes (toasted)
  • 60g unsalted butter
  • 160g icing sugar
  • 4 dessert spoons of milk (ideally whole)
  • small squeeze lemon juice

Method

1.Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease up an ~8 inch cake tin.

2. Mix the flour, ground almonds, salt and baking powder in a big bowl.

3. In another bowl whisk up the eggs briefly before adding the sugar and whisking thoroughly until well mixed. Then add the olive oil and whisk for about a minute until the mix changes colour slightly and thickens up. Finally add both extracts, zest, small squeeze of lemon juice and the orange juice and mix thoroughly.

4. Pour the wet ingredients into the big bowl and whisk all of the ingredients until you have a nice smooth batter. Once you have this, pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake it in the over for between 30 to 40 minute depending on your oven and tin size, spinning it around half way through to ensure it cooks evenly. The cake is done when you poke in a knife and it comes out clean with nothing stuck to it. You’ll also know it’s done as it will look and smell delicious.Once the cake is out, let it cool for 10 minutes in the tin and then take it out and leave it to cool on an airing rack.

5. If you haven’t toasted the almonds, whack them in the still hot oven and toast them until golden brown.

6. While the cake is cooling make the glaze by melting the butter in a pan on the hob, and then keep gently heating it and spinning the pan to move the butter around. Keep going until the butter darkens slightly and smells slightly nutty and then take it off the heat. It will continue getting darker in colour as it cools off.

7. Combine the icing sugar and milk in a bowl and whisk together until smooth. I was amazed how little liquid was required so don’t go too mad with the milk. Once you’ve got a nice smooth mix, add the melted butter and whisk it all together until thick and delicious and give it a tiny squeeze of lemon juice to balance out the sweetness. Spread generously across the cake before throwing on the toasted almonds.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking

Cod, Pancetta, Minted Peas, Broadbeans

I know what you’re thinking. Minted peas and pancetta; this sounds a little like one of the more exciting episodes of Come Dine With Me where the ‘zany’ host gets ideas above their station and serves the meal accompanied by a soprano they’ve drafted in for the evening… What next, scallops and black pudding? Eton Mess? But no, trust me, persevere as this is super easy, looks great, and tastes amazing.

The inspiration for this came in the way that many of my recipes start; through me buying a huge amount of something very cheap. I don’t know what it is, but I’m hardwired to love a bargain. Sometimes I know what I’m buying is a little ridiculous, but I can’t help myself. I just have to buy it and Saturday was one of those times. Ambling around Borough Market in the afternoon sun I found a huge block of pancetta for a fiver. Putty in their hands, I snapped it up and went straight home to start cooking…

Serves 2

Ingredients:

2 big handfuls of frozen peas.

1 big dollop of crème fraîche

Small handful of chopped mint leaves

Small handful of pancetta (streaky bacon)

2 handfuls of podded broad beans.

2 Cod Fillets (with or without skin)

Small knob of butter

Seasoning

I boiled up some peas for a few minutes until they were tender but still bright green (overcooking peas until they shrivel up and die is a crime) and roughly mashed them up with a fork. I added a bit of crème fraîche to bind my pea mixture slightly, and some fresh chopped mint and plenty of seasoning. This was to be the bed for the cod fillet and so I set it aside until the end.

My pancetta was a huge block so I spent a while slicing up the pancetta as thin as I could practically manage with a chefs knife, knowing that it wasn’t going to crisp up if it wasn’t really thin. Armed with my pancetta slices, I diced these up into pieces and dry fried them to release their delicious salty-savoury flavour. Once they were crisp and pretty much ready, I threw in a small bowlful of podded broad beans and heated them through.

In yet another pan (3 pans? This is posh) I heated a splash of olive oil and added the cod loin, seasoned generously on both sides, to cook for about 4 minutes. At this point it was golden brown so I flipped it over and added a small knob of butter before cooking the other side for a further 3 minutes.

To assemble the dish I made a bed of the minted peas, on top of which went the delicately placed cod fillet the broad bean and pancetta mix scattered around the edge. The soft sweet peas and gentle bite of the broad beans were a wonderful contrast to the crispy salty pancetta, and the cod flaked up into large quivering flakes which almost melted in the mouth. Voila,  a meal fit for the 4 strangers that you don’t like but invited round in the vain hope of winning the cash prize at the end of the week. My word of advice to try to resist the temptation to go overboard on the pancetta like I did – you’re guests will almost certainly mark you down for it…

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking